Thursday, 24 April 2014

HN: Fraudster pardoned after years of hiding abroad

31 January 2013

Prague, Jan 30 (CTK) - Czech big fraudster Jiri Stepanek who shunned serving his sentence by hiding in the Caribbean until late 2012, has been pardoned now by the presidential amnesty as one of those whose proceedings lasted more than eight years, daily Hospodarske noviny (HN) writes yesterday.

President Vaclav Klaus' aide Ladislav Jakl previously explained that the amnesty halts extremely long criminal proceedings in order to remedy inadmissible sluggishness of the Czech judiciary.

Stepanek's case is one of those in which the applying of the presidential pardon is rather disputable.

His criminal proceedings lasted extremely long not due to the sluggishness of courts but because he was hiding abroad, which has finally helped him now, the paper writes.

Stepanek, suspected of a fraud worth 38.5 million crowns and faced with a trial in the early 2000s, escaped from the Czech Republic to the Dominican Republic where he stayed for nine years.

The Czech courts sentenced him to 8.5 years in prison as a fugitive in absentia in the meantime.

Only last October, the Czech detectives found Stepanek in the Caribbean and brought him, along with other Czech suspects on the run, to Prague. He was taken into custody.

Stepanek immediately used his right to apply for a new trial that would be held in his presence.

Most recently, he was pardoned by the presidential amnesty.

Although the amnesty does not apply to those avoiding trial, it applies to Stepanek because he was no longer fugitive on January 1 when the amnesty was declared.

As he faced a new trial, his proceedings were qualified as unfinished, without a definitive verdict, and lasting for more than eight years, irrespective of the nine years he spent in the Caribbean," HN writes.

The state attorney filed a complaint against Stepanek's pardoning, but the court rejected the complaint and Stepanek was released from custody on January 14, HN writes.

This is not the only case of its kind. Those pardoned also include a man who was prosecuted for 15 years for trading in stolen cars. However, out of the 15 years he was hiding abroad for 13 years, the paper points out.

($1=19.102 crowns)

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